ISLAMABAD: The government and Higher Education Commission (HEC) have silently shelved plans to set up the much-touted national law university after spending Rs473 million on the project for eight years.
The project, approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on March 21, 2006, was to be completed in 11 months with an estimated cost of Rs415 million. However, the CDWP revised its cost to Rs473 million in 2007.
Jumping the gun, the HEC rented out buildings and purchased all required infrastructure at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to start academic activities without getting the charter approved from the Parliament.
According to documents obtained by The Express Tribune, Rs56 million worth of buildings were rented out in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore while land costing Rs191 million was also purchased for the new Islamabad campus on Kuri Road spanning 35 acres. Similarly, Rs45 million was spent on 85 staffers in three cities along with office equipment worth Rs24 million.
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“The plan to establish the law university has been shelved for the time being,” HEC Executive Director Akbar Kundi informed the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice last week.
Later, the federal cabinet on April 8, 2009 considered the Ministry of Education’s ordinance that the varsity should change its name to national university of law and social sciences and approved the proposal for further processing in the form of a draft bill.
Later, the cabinet on September 28, 2009 considered the summary and constituted a committee comprising the education minister as its chairperson, minister of state for finance and deputy chairman, planning commission as its members to examine the contents of the draft bill and sought its recommendations.
The committee again met on February 23, 2010 and deliberated on the bill and unanimously resolved to recommend passing of the bill through the Parliament for award of charter.
Last nail in the coffin
The summary of the bill was presented before a cabinet meeting on March 20, 2010 but it deferred the decision. The cabinet directed that views of coalition partners be sought and submitted before it.
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The next cabinet meeting was scheduled for June 17, 2010 which was postponed and rescheduled for July 20, 2010 and it is pending since then. HEC officials privy to the development commented that the then minister for law and justice Babar Awan was the reason behind the delay. “He was the stumbling block in this project,” said an official. The Express Tribune contacted Awan several times but his personal secretary said he would be available after sometime but never got back.
In February 2011, the HEC executive director wrote to the planning and development secretary mentioning the delay in establishment of the university. It proposed that the assets procured under the project be transferred to public sector varsities having law programmes so the furniture, books and teaching equipment worth millions could be utilised.
The Planning Commission took up the project in its CDWP meeting on April 2011 and the decisions reached there turned out to be the anti-climax of the much-touted project. The CDWP decided to abandon the plan saying the land would be retained by HEC for future projects.
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Later, the assets procured for the Islamabad campus were transferred to Bahria University Islamabad a public sector university having a newly-established law department.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.